December, and 2012, went by a quick as a flash! I hardly realized that it was the last day of December until that evening. Even though it went by quickly, it was a great year!
Instead of writing about my favorite things from December (since it was honestly a slower month for K-Pop), I want to write about my personal favorite Korean albums of 2012! These are ones that I listen to again and again and can't get enough of. I'm not saying ones that I don't mention aren't good, or that this is the must have list that everyone has to like, but I wanted to share the ones I liked the most. Some I have reviewed, and others I have not. So, onto the albums, in no particular order!
1. SHINee's Sherlock Album
This was one of the first full length albums that I bought! I was so excited when SHINee made a comeback this year, that I bought this album the moment it released online. Technically, 3 of the songs on the album are "the same", Clue and Note are similar, and Sherlock is a combination of the two. Even though I would have preferred that only Sherlock was on the album, and the other two spots were taken up by different songs, I still love this album and it's one of my favorites from the year! I listen to this one quite a bit, especially Alarm Clock and The Reason, and I love the detective theme to all the songs, as well as the Music Video.
2. BIGBANG's Alive and Still Alive Albums
The physical album for Alive is really awesome, I loved the metal exterior and all the different layers that you unwrap to get to the CD. This was one of my first reviews (not a very good one, when I look back, haha) and this album made me fall in love with Big Bang. This is a longer album than most, since many artists release Mini Albums and Single Albums with 2-5 tracks. Each song is unique, and I also loved the music videos for Blue, Fantastic Baby, and Bad Boy. Later, they released Still Alive, with the intro song turned into a full track (which really made me happy), along with a few new songs, including Monster! They also added an Acappella version of Monster to this album, along with the Instrumental, which gets addicting after you listen to it a few times. Both versions of Alive are great, but I have to say that I preferred the first one (and if it had Monster, it would be a clear winner).
3. B1A4's Ignition Special Edition Album
B1A4 also released two versions of their album "Ignition", but my favorite is definitely the Special Edition version. You still get Baby I'm Sorry and the songs from the first release, along with Baby Goodnight and others. This is one of the longest K-Pop albums from the year, with about 15 songs, including Instrumentals for several tracks. My favorite songs off the album are those mentioned above, along with Wonderful Tonight (Unplugged), Supersonic, So Fine, and Baro's Duet with Min. The Hipster-Cowboy theme was pretty cute and suits B1A4. The physical album looks like a giant hardcover book, and is filled with a ton of post cards instead of a photo book (which I thought was clever and I preferred it). This is definitely more of an upbeat and "pop" sounding album, compared to others, and is an album that I go to when I need some energy. (It's also yet another album I got a chance to review.)
4. Sunny Hill's The Grasshoppers Album
This may be a single album, but it's one of my favorites from the year! Sunny Hill has put out a few albums this year, including Princess and Prince Charming and Antique Romance. While I love both of those albums as well, this is my favorite. Not only because The Grasshopper Song is one my my favorite songs and Music Videos of all time, but because this album was released while they were still a Co-Ed band, which is why I became a fan originally. (Once again, I am still a fan of their music, but The Grasshoppers is my top pick from their albums.) Also, good luck trying to get this song out of your head after hearing it once!
5. CNBLUE's Ear Fun Album
This album came with a few Studio Style MV's, including Still in Love and Hey You. After getting to know Yong Hwa from You're Beautiful (along with Hong Ki from FT Island, who I will mention in a bit), CN Blue released this album, and I officially became a fan of the group! (I even had them as my calendar for all of 2012.) This album has a classic rock feel to it, mixed with a jazzy sound, which is really "CNBLUE sounding". If you like Korean music, but are more into bands than Idol groups, CN Blue is a good fit for you, and this album is especially good! (I also wrote a review on this album earlier this year.)
6. FT Island's Five Treasure Box Album
I feel like, if I'm going to mention them both, I should put CNBLUE and FT Island as a pair. They tour together, and have similar sounds, but are still have their own style within that. I was really happy to review this album, because I can't really say anything bad about it! The songs are great, and I love the mix of new songs with re-made songs from their Japanese album. The main song that they made the Music Video for, I Wish, is great! The Spanish flair was really well done, and it's one of my favorite live songs of the year. This is another great "Band" album that's worth checking out.
7. NU'EST's Face Album
The rookie group NU'EST really stood out to me this year! They also released the album Action, but I preferred their first Single Album. The mix of dubstep into K-Pop became really prevalent when NU'EST came onto the scene, and they pulled it off really well. I liked each of the songs off of this album, and even though it was short it packed a punch! NU'EST became one of the rookie groups to watch this year, for me at least, and I hope they continue to produce great music.
8. EXO's MAMA Album
Speaking of rookie groups, how could you forget the MAMA album from EXO-K and EXO-M? They made a great debut, and I wrote about this album and their debut stage this year. The concept of two groups performing the same songs in different languages, yet being the same band, is pretty clever. I will say that I wish this wasn't the only album that they put out in 2012, I'm still waiting for Metal, El Dorado, Baby Don't Cry, and more from them. This album did have some great songs on it, including Two Moons featuring Key from SHINee! MAMA is one of the most interesting songs and videos from the year, and What is Love and Angel are some of my favorite overall Korean songs. While I wish this album had more songs on it, I love the ones they managed to fit on it. (Just know, SM Entertainment, I expect to see a new album from them soon.)
9. MBLAQ's 4th Mini Album BLAQ%
This is probably my favorite MBLAQ albums to date! 100%, Run, Beautiful, and This is War are some of my favorite songs, and all of them are on this album! This Is War has one of the coolest and most theatrical dances (and dramatic videos), and the music for 100% gets me every time with the heavy base and use of effects. MBLAQ easily went from a group that I liked, to a group that I am a fan of, from this one album. Each song on it is great, and I don't think a K-Pop library should go without this album.
10. SISTAR's Alone Album
In case you thought I was sexist when it comes to K-Pop, think again! SISTAR's Alone is one of my favorite albums of the year, along with their Single Album Loving You. They have gorgeous voices, and I love the high notes that they are able to hit (especially in I Choose To Love You)! Also, the Tango version of Alone that they performed at MAMA 2012 was a perfect remix of the song and dance, and they showed off their versatility. With so many Korean girl groups out there, SISTAR is up there with my favorites. From their album, to their single, and the Christmas specials, they showed that they really can do it all, and beautifully at that.
11. BAP's Power Album
For a new group, B.A.P has put out quite a few albums this year! It was difficult to choose just one, since I loved No Mercy, Crash, and Warrior as well. B.A.P debuted boldly, with a really edgy and powerful theme in both their Music and Videos. They had a busy year, and I'm looking forward to more of their music. Though they have gone for a softer sound lately, I still like it, but I hope that their future songs will still have the style from their debut. I would say that all of their albums from the year are great, but if I had to narrow it down I would pick this one. Power and Lie Lie are two of my favorite B.A.P songs, and you get to hear both sides of their voices.
12. Dalmatian's State of Emergency Album
Dalmatian's members changed before this album, and so did their overall style. The bright colors and happy music of Round 1 and That Man Opposed changed to the edgier ER this year! I love both sides of Dalmatian, but this album stood out to me. ER, Hurt Me, Drive, and Still By Your Side are all great songs that I can't seem to get enough of! Also, they put on great live performances this year, making me love the album even more. While the "darker side" of Dalmatian may not appeal to you, I absolutely adore this album and probably couldn't go without it.
13. Younha's Supersonic
The Korean album by Younha from 2012 was amazing! Each track was unique and showed a range of styles. Plus the duets with Jay Park and John Park were perfect, and her voice somehow suits both of them. This is another long album that came out, so you really get your money's worth from it. Her Japanese influences show through the music, along with the Korean Pop sound, making for a uniquely Younha album. I think I liked this album mainly because there's something for everyone on it. There's softer ballads, pop songs, rock influenced tracks, etc. Plus, Cream Sauce Pasta is one of my favorite humorous songs, and the Run Music Video is gorgeous and artfully done.
14. Jokwon's I'm Da One/Animal Album
The physical album itself, and the songs from Jokwon's I'm Da One Album are incredibly fun! They described it perfectly on the cover, because it really is your "100% Daily Value of Endorphin"! B1A4's album is great for cheering yourself up, but nothing quite does the job like I'm Da One! (There's also the "Animal Version" with the same songs, but I preferred the one with 3D glasses and adhesive mustaches myself.) The title track, along with Lipstick, Just a Kiss, Awesome Girl, and all the others are songs I've repeated for hours on end, while dancing around like an idiot (and I'm proud of it)! 2012 wouldn't have been the same, or as energetic and playful, without this album.
15. Block B's Blockbuster Album
If you read the review that I wrote for this album, you'll know that I could not stop raving about it! Block B put out an incredible album, that may be my favorite overall! Nillili Mambo has a hilarious Music Video that I watch again and again. I love each and every song off of this album, each for a different reason. If I had to pick favorites they would be Nillili Mambo, Mental Breaker, and Dreams Come True. The fact that they were able to put out such a first-rate Jazz song impressed me more than I can say, and the rest of the album just shows that they really are one of the best groups out there! You can tell that they were mentored by some of the best Hip-Hop artists out there (and were previously in the "Hip-Hop Underground), because there's no way they could be this good this fast without it. I could go on forever, but just know that I really love this album.
16. Urban Zakapa's Beautiful Day Album
Speaking of groups that I love, Urban Zakapa has such a profound and gorgeous sound to both their voices and music. They released several albums this year, but Beautiful Day is my favorite out of them. There are 4 songs on this album, and I honestly love each of them equally. The Jazz-Pop kind of sound that Urban Zakapa has is distinct, and it's this album that made me fall in love with it. Something Special and Beautiful Day both have wonderful high ranges to them, and not many bands can pull that off. When it comes to Korean music, from non-idol bands, Urban Zakapa has to be up there in my favorite groups.
17. LUNAFLY's How Nice Would It Be Album
Lunafly released a few album this year, in both English and Korean, but this has to be my favorite one. I love how How Nice Would it Be and Superhero have the same music, yet have different lyrics. It's a clever twist that they are continuing with, and their music is able to suit two separate themes perfectly somehow. Lunafly does a lot of live performances, and they sound just as good live and they do in the studio, which is something I look for in a artist. This is a really simple acoustic album, and it focuses more on their voices, while still having great instrumentals. This was a really refreshing album from 2012, that is still as fun as other albums even though it's only three members with simple instruments.
18. Super Junior's Spy Album
It's pretty difficult to mention K-Pop and not mention Super Junior! Although my favorite member, Leetuk, left for military service this year, he was able to take part in recording this album (and being the the Music Videos) before leaving, which adds to how much I like it. This album is fantastic, and has that classic Suju sound that you expect. Their music sticks in your head forever, and I really don't mind that it does. This album includes Sexy Free and Single, along with Spy and From U! These are three of my new favorite Super Junior songs, and out of the releases from 2012, this is my favorite from them.
19. U-Kiss' Stop Girl Album
U-Kiss also put out several Albums and Music Videos this year, my favorites being Stop Girl and Doradora. Both the title track and Time to Go are great, and the album has a good amount of songs on it. I also appreciate that they have Stop Girl in English on the album as well, which makes sense because Eli and Kevin speak English fluently! U-Kiss really worked hard this year to put out as much music as they could for their fans, and that's what I love about them. You can hear the dedication they have to their music in the songs, and Stop Girl was a great final album for the year!
20. Miss A's Independent Women
Miss A released Touch and Independent Women (Part 3) this year, though I have to say the later is my favorite of the two. Miss A is a really fierce girl group, and their music reflects it. It's not about being cute and full of Aegyo, but more about being a strong woman. I Don't Need a Man is one of my favorite songs and videos of the year, and If I Were a Boy is also terrific song. Again, I also loved Touch, and thought it was a great album. Both styles from Miss A were great, and they are quickly becoming one of my favorite Female Groups!
21. G-Dragons One of a Kind Album
I couldn't narrow the list down below 21, because I had to fit G-Dragon's Solo Album on here! GD loves proving the the world that he is a music genius! The Music Videos for ThatXX, Crayon, and One of a Kind, and are uniquely wonderful, and just ooze GD's style. I can't list my favorite songs off of this album, because I still can't decide. You get to hear every range and style of G-Dragon's voice, and all of the music that he put together to make for such a mind-blowingly awesome record. This is another album that I could go on about for a very long time, but I'm going to cut it short. GD became one of my favorite male solo artists, in general not just in Korea, because of this album (along with Heartbreaker). If you need something that breaks the mold, than One of a Kind is for you.
That's all folks! You now know my 21 Top Favorite Albums of the year! There were a bunch of songs that I also loved, but I tried to stick to the full albums that I liked the most.
(An honorable mention is for the Primary Album, with collaborations from tons of Korean Hip-Hp and R&B artists! I can't finish this without mentioning that one!)
There were also great songs and albums from Ailee, 2NE1, Infinite, Beast/B2ST, F.Cuz, Phantom, Verbal Jint, Nell, Standing Egg, Son Dam Bi, 4 Minute, FIESTAR, BoA, Kim Sung Kyu, Dal Shabet, f(x), and so many more! It's really difficult to narrow down the best albums from such an amazing year for K-Pop!
The Korean Music Industry is also getting ready to pump out more fantastic hits, and I hope that 2013 is just as good, if not better, for K-Pop! I'm excited for the new year, and what it holds for Korean Music fans!
Thank you so much for reading, and if you're a regular on this blog, thank you for staying with me for the year. Let me know in the comments what your favorite albums of the year were, and if I mentioned them or not! I love reading/hearing about the bands and artists that others love, so feel free to list away! Also, you can let me know what new releases you are looking forward to the most for 2013!
I'm hoping for more BIGBANG Member Solos, some great Big Bang albums, EXO finishing their teaser songs, the new YG Girl Group, more from B.A.P, Block B, and Lunafly, and also more from Ailee, Lee Hi, and all the other girl groups out there (like Dal Shabet, SNSD, f(x), and Juniel)!
So many artists, so little time! I hope you have an amazing new year~!
See you next time you jump down the Rabbit hole,